Lawmaker Au Kam San has urged the government not to force foreign design contractors to hire local architects, which he says could impact the quality of the projects.
Au voiced his opinion to the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Ao Ieong U, during a public consultation session about the new Central Library project.
In order to build the new Central Library, the local government invited four non-local architecture companies to provide design proposals. The government chose designs from four candidates, who are from the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and Switzerland.
The government then paid the four European companies to design the final conceptual plan. This approach has fallen under public scrutiny, especially by local designers.
The local architecture industry has been dissatisfied with the exclusion of Macau designers from this project.
However, the government has consistently claimed that local professionals will have opportunities to be part of the new Central Library development, for instance, they may be hired in the future by the successful bidders.
Previously, the government held a competition to attract designs for the Central Library, especially from local designers. The participants were not paid for submitting a design.
Commenting on the authority’s different approaches with the current paid and the previous unpaid competition, Ao Ieong only said “I think [this time] we paid foreign companies a rather fair price to provide a conceptual design.”
Ao Ieong was also criticized by Chinese-language media in Macau for not inviting local architects to the design proposal review. Lawmaker Agnes Lam also spoke on behalf of some local architects and asked the government about the reasons behind the exclusion.
However, contrary to this opinion, lawmaker Au argued that the government should not force foreign design contractors to hire Macau architects to participate in the design of the project.
“I don’t want the government to force foreign companies to hire local participants, because it may drag down the quality,” said Au.
Previously, the Macau SAR government paid 18.68 million patacas to a company for the design of the new Central Library to be built on the site of the current Old Court Building. Moreover, another 49.8 million patacas was paid to a company for the design to transform the current Hotel Estoril into a youth activity center.
Both of these plans have now been abandoned, as the Hotel Estoril will be transformed into the Central Library instead.
According to the latest estimates advanced by the Secretary, the overall cost to build the previous two designs of the Old Court Building and the Hotel Estoril youth center amounted to a combined 2.5 billion patacas. The current Central Library plan, together with the future edition of the youth center and a performance academy, will cost 1.35 billion patacas in total.
However, she actually said “we admitted that we wasted some money on the design” stage.
Many in Macau have called for the preservation of the façade painting of the Hotel Estoril, even under its previous renovation plans. The four companies have all retained the façade painting in their design proposals.
Ao Ieong said that the government did not require that the companies include the façade in the design, and that it is a pure coincidence that the companies all preserved it. Lawmaker Mak Soi Kun was particularly dissatisfied with the coincidence and requested that Ao Ieong explain the meaning behind the painting. Mak said that others have relayed to him that the painting is a metaphor to illustrate the casino making a profit from its customers.
However, Ao Ieong responded to Mak by saying “art is subjective. Everybody sees it differently.”
Tunnel from Tap Seac Square
The local government has endorsed the proposal to construct an underground tunnel between the current Hotel Estoril and Tap Seac Square so as to make a seamless connection between Tap Seac Square and the future new Central Library. The endorsement came from the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Ao Ieong U, who made the disclosure during her response to lawmakers’ questions on the latest proposal for the new Central Library project. She said the idea would be raised with the Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo Arrais do Rosário.